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Raise a glass (and cash) for geese and wetlands

WWT is delighted to announce a new way for our members and supporters to help our global conservation work and many will also be pleased to hear that it involves enjoying one of Scotland’s finest Highland single malt Scotch whiskies.

Glengoyne Highland Single Malt have generously offered to donate £4.50 to WWT for every standard bottle and £3.00 for every personalised bottle of whisky bought online at www.glengoyne.com/wwt.

John Creedon, WWT’s Corporate Relations Manager said “Glengoyne were keen to link with WWT because the name ‘Glengoyne’ means “Glen of the Wild Geese” in Gaelic, and WWT’s Caerlaverock Wetland Centre in Dumfriesshire, within easy reach of the distillery, is of course the winter home of tens of thousands of barnacle geese from Svalbard.”

Glengoyne distillery is proud of its environmental record and will shortly finish the creation of its own constructed wetland to treat its water naturally and create an area rich in biodiversity.

Multi gold award-winning Glengoyne is a leading premium Highland Single Malt Scotch Whisky, distilled at Glengoyne since 1833.

The Glengoyne portfolio consists of 10 Years Old, 12 Years Old, 12 Years Old Cask Strength, 17 Years Old, 21 Years Old and Vintage 1972 as well as limited editions.

To buy a bottle of Glengoyne for yourself (or become very popular with a friend or relation by buying them a bottle as a gift!) just log onto the Glengoyne online shop using the special URL www.glengoyne.com/wwt

Please make sure you shop using the URL above (or by clicking on the picture below) to ensure WWT gets your donation.


Don’t let lawless Britain become a threat to wildlife – WWT calls on supporters for help

A new Government initiative has put all of the 278 laws*
protecting wildlife and the environment at risk.

The recent launch of its controversial Red Tape Challenge (RTC) aims to ‘reduce the burden of regulation’ because it has ‘hurt business, doing real damage to our economy’.

People are invited, via the RTC website, to tell Government which legislation and regulations should be scrapped and which should be saved.

Ministers will then have just three months to work out what to keep and what to discard.

Included on the RTC website are the 278 regulations that aim to promote sustainable development and protect the environment.

While it is undoubtedly true that not all regulations are perfect, the Government has chosen to put all 278 environmental regulations up for grabs, including key legislation like the Wildlife & Countryside Act and the Climate Change Act.

These and other regulations protect the sites and species that we care about and enjoy on a daily basis, and the very resources upon which all of us, including businesses, ultimately depend.

The RTC clearly puts short-term business
interests first and undermines environmental protection.

While we welcome the recent statement on Defra’s website that ‘there are no plans to remove important environmental protections’ we remain very concerned by what might be considered to be ‘important’, and that all environmental regulations remain up for grabs on the RTC website.

Even if there are no plans to scrap major pieces of environmental legislation, we are worried that this exercise could be used to try to get rid of smaller but still extremely important and effective environmental regulations.

Disturbingly, the default position stated on the RTC website is that all regulations considered to be ‘burdensome’ to business will go unless ministers can make a very good case for them to stay.

We would very much like our members and supporters to help if you can give a few minutes.

Putting these critical environmental laws up for potential scrapping is short-sighted, and could have devastating consequences.

These regulations are not only designed to protect species, habitats and important wildlife sites, but also critical natural resources, like clean water.

You can help by telling the Government that wildlife matters.

1. Visit the Red Tape Challenge website and have your say on the proposals.

2. Feel free to use the bullet points below as a basis.

3. If you wish to make further points or copy us in, email prteam@wwt.org.uk

  • This RTC challenge puts at risk 278 environmental regulations including those     that relate to biodiversity, wildlife management, landscapes, the countryside and recreation. Regulation is a critical tool for helping protect the sites and species that we cherish and have a responsibility to protect and the habitats and natural resources upon which we all, including businesses, depend.
  • Environmental regulations are not ‘red tape’. They are needed to counter very real threats and are essential for the long term maintenance of the nation’s wildlife, habitats, natural resources and landscapes.
  • A Government that aims to be ‘the greenest Government ever’ should put sustainability and the environment at the heart of its activities. The Red Tape Challenge clearly puts short-term business interests first and undermines environmental protection.
  • We call upon the Government to live up to its stated environmental ambitions and remove environmental regulations from the Red Tape Challenge.

We need you to have your say.

Thank you for your support.

Martin Spray
Chief Executive WWT

More information on the Red Tape Challenge can be found by visiting the official Red Tape Challenge website.

*The 278 regulations that are stated relates to the entire number of regulations that fall within the environment category of the Red Tape Challenge, that aim to promote sustainable development and protection of the environment. The 158 regulations relate to the number of regulations that fall within the biodiversity, wildlife management, landscape, countryside and recreation category. Which is a sub-category of the environment category

X-rays reveal shooting of swans despite legislation

A forty year study by the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust (WWT) reveals that Bewick’s swans are being shot, despite being protected by law in every country they fly through.

23% of live Bewick’s swans x-rayed for the study since 2000 had been shot.

The swans, currently on their spring migration from the UK to Arctic Russia, have been in sharp decline since the mid-1990s and conservationists at WWT are trying to eliminate threats to their future.

These findings reflect potential shooting along the swans’ entire migration path, but it is not yet possible to say where shooting hotspots might be.

The swans are regular and much-loved winter visitors to Slimbridge on the River Severn and the Ouse Washes in Norfolk, where researchers catch a proportion each year for ringing and health screening.

In addition, they x-ray the birds, revealing which ones are living with shotgun pellets lodged in their bodies. This gives a clear indication of the amount of illegal shooting that goes on.

A paper published in 1973, the early days of the study, found 34% of Bewick’s swans to be living with shot in them.

Now, forty years into the study, WWT has discovered that 23% of Bewick’s swans still continue to be shot.

Julia Newth, Wildlife Health Research Officer at WWT, says: “We are doing our best to work out what is behind the decline of our swans. There are a number of suspected threats. Irrespective of the importance of illegal shooting among these, we need to reduce mortality from all factors in this declining species.

“We face a big challenge because the swans migrate across all of northern Europe to reach their breeding grounds in Russia, which is a vast area within which to try to work out why people continue to shoot the swans.

“We want to appeal to responsible hunters to keep their eyes out and to report anyone they see shooting at swans.

“If we can work out where the shooting hotspots are, we can do something to address the illegal shooting of swans.”

Most shot birds had between one and three pellets in them, but one swan caught at Slimbridge in 1991 had 30 pellets in it.

With such high levels of wounding, it follows that many birds are probably killed by shooting.

Other studies looking at geese and ducks carrying pellets report that wounded birds can have a much lower chance of survival.

WWT is a leading member of an international, multi-disciplinary, team which is investigating why Bewick’s swans are declining in Europe and the threats faced by the birds, including disturbance, habitat loss, changes in the climate, collisions with large objects such as power lines and wind turbines, and lead poisoning.

WWT’s swan records are a valuable tool for the team because they are the world’s longest and most comprehensive study of Bewick’s swan return dates, migration and family histories.

The records were started during the winter of 1964/65 by WWT founder Sir Peter Scott soon after he realised that the bill markings of Bewick’s swans are as unique as a fingerprint is to a person, so could be used to identify individuals.

Today, Sir Peter’s pioneering ID system means that WWT experts can recognise many hundreds of birds by name and ancestry.

Bewick’s swans are named after the bird-watcher and illustrator, Thomas Bewick (1753 to 1828) and are thought to have inspired the Russian folk story on which the ballet Swan Lake is based.

Migrating geese to guide wind farm plans

The potential impact of wind farms on barnacle geese has led experts at WWT to fit GPS satellite tags to five birds to determine their precise movements as they migrate.

The five tagged geese will set off on their migration from Scotland to Norway any time now. Their progress can be followed online at wwt.org.uk/maps.

With at least two large offshore wind farms planned in the Firth of Forth and another half dozen along the coast of Norway (along the flight path for migratory barnacle geese), it is hoped the data collected by these tags (relating to the flight heights and timing of migratory movements of geese in relation to light levels) will be used to locate offshore and onshore windfarms where the risk of collision is low.

For example, it is thought that most of the geese rest overnight in the sea area around the Firth of Forth before continuing their journey.

If they spend the time in the same areas as the proposed wind farms, evidence of their precise movements will be critical in minimising any impact on the geese.

Dr Larry Griffin, for WWT said; “There is a strong need to assess the impact of the wind farms currently planned along the international migratory corridor of the Barnacle goose, a protected species, not only onshore and offshore in the Firth of Forth but also those planned and already in operation along the Norwegian coast.

“WWT has been closely monitoring the barnacle geese since the 1960s and since then, along with Norwegian and Dutch colleagues, has ringed over 10,000 birds.

“Numbers of the Svalbard barnacle goose, whose entire population winters on the Solway Firth, were down to as few as 300 in 1948. Through a combination of conservation effort with detailed research led by WWT over the last 50 years, numbers today have now risen to more than 35,000.

“However, the barnacle goose is still a protected species and this data should give us valuable insight into their behavior so that we can continue to protect them in the future.”

Numbers increased following protection from hunting and the creation of undisturbed feeding areas such as the WWT reserve established at Caerlaverock in 1970.

This coupled with the later goose management schemes administered by Scottish National Heritage since the early 90s to support local farmers to foster goose grazing.

The carefully managed saltmarsh and pastures of the Caerlaverock reserve provide a safe refuge where the birds can feed in peace prior to, or following, their epic spring or autumn migrations.

Picture credits: top – Kane Brides, bottom – Keith Kirk.

Spring rarities at WWT centres

As spring has progressed we’ve been seeing an increasing number of rare bird visitors to our reserves.

The months of April and May are great for spotting returning migrants from Africa and other hot climes. Birds are also busy singing to attract mates and building nests and are in full colourful plumage. It’s a superb time to be outside seeing what you can spot!

Among our most interested visitors so far this spring is a white-spotted bluethroat at our Welney centre – an infrequent visitor to the UK which, if it is seen, doesn’t usually stay and hold territory.

This male also spent last summer at the centre and we’re pleased that he is returned. It would be even better if he was able to attract a mate.

At our Llanelli centre a drake blue-winged teal appeared in mid-April and then at the end of the month as well.

Blue-winged teal are an American species that usually breed in central North America and migrate to central South America in the winter. It is only the second time this distinctive duck has visited the centre – the previous time was in 2002.

London has also had some exciting visitors over the past month – notably a marsh harrier and a kingfisher at the start of April, and a nightingale in the middle of the month.

A honey buzzard was spotted on 18 April, and an avocet on 19 April.

Slimbridge has enjoyed a nuimber of rare sightings, including – from the end of March – a marsh harrier, red kites, a cattle egret, a great white egret, two light-bellied and one dark-bellied brent geese.

A lesser scaup remained until 26 April and up to two male Garganey were seen throughout the month – one was still at the centre at the start of May.

In late April and May the Arctic bound wader migration was particularly spectacular with bar-tailed godwits mostly but also grey plover, red knot, turnstone, sanderling, dunlin and ringed plover. Two wood sandpipers were also spotted.

At Arundel a little crake was showing well in the reed beds in mid April and there was also a pair of bearded tits sighted (not seen at Arundel since 2003, so a rarity for the centre).

Martin Mere saw some black-winged stilts passing through at the end of April – they only stuck around for a day before moving on, but plenty of visitors got to see these leggy waders.